Friday, March 26, 2004

My First Love, Too

The Mustang turns forty next month.

My first car was a silver 1965 Mustang 2+2 with a 289 V-8 and a three-speed stick-shift. I was 16, and my folks bought it for me from the used car lot at Brondes Ford in Toledo, Ohio in April 1969. I remember the first time I drove it. I hadn’t driven a stick-shift much, so it was a bit of a lesson in the parking lot, but I was hooked. This car was calling out to me, and I knew we were meant to be together.

I got to take it to college in the fall of 1971. Freshman weren’t supposed to have cars at the University of Miami, but through some slip-up at registration, they sold me a parking sticker. A month or so after school started I flew up to Toledo and drove the Mustang back to Miami over a weekend. It was a great car to cruise around in, even if it didn’t have A/C in sub-tropical Florida. I had plans to hang on to the car as a “classic,” but my dad said that since there were so many of them, Mustangs would never be a collectible car. I sold it in the summer of 1973 for $300 to another 16-year-old kid and bought a pick-up truck. I’ve been through a lot of cars since then – mostly station wagons including my ever-faithful 1988 Pontiac 6000 LE Safari (which I still have) – but I never forgot that first Mustang, and ever since I’ve wanted another one, even if it wasn’t that original 1965 fastback, which today, in restored condition, could sell for $15,000 and up. (I love my dad, but his insight into collectible cars is suspect.)

In May 1998 my mom was visiting friends up in northern Michigan when she and Dad drove by a used car dealership owned by a friend and spied a 1995 Mustang GT convertible, laser red with white leather interior. She had been driving a 1979 Volvo since it was new and wanted a little change, so she bought it. When I showed up for their 50th anniversary celebration that summer I saw the Mustang in the garage. I was suddenly 16 again, and after a short drive, I invoked the words of Will Smith in Independence Day when he pilots the alien fighter ship: “I gotta get me one o’ these!” Last year when the new Mini debuted, Mom fell in love with one, and I made her an offer on the Mustang. I picked it up over Labor Day weekend and reprised my first driving trip to Miami with my first Mustang. In honor of that little silver pony car, I have mounted its original 1969 Ohio license plate on the front bracket.

Yes, I know it’s only a car. Yes, it’s a gas guzzler. But there’s something about it that you get from nothing else. I can’t explain it. I guess that’s love.